Lady Betty

Lady Betty

Written by Declan Donnellan
Performed in English
1989

The true story of Ireland’s only hangwoman. How she murdered her son. How she escaped the gallows and how she ended her days as Queen of the long drop in Roscommon Gaol.

Set in the West of Ireland around the time of the French Revolution, this visceral tale is beaten out in words, music and dance.

Written by Declan Donnellan, with music by Paddy Cunneen. Produced by Cheek by Jowl. The first performance of Lady Betty was at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds on 18th September 1989.

“A dark dance of survival presented with refined wit and audacity”

The Observer
Cast and creative team

Cast

NameCharacter
Sally DexterBetty
Tim McMullanJohn / Oliver / Captain Mills
Gerard O’HareFather Malloy / Michael Flynn
Catherine WhiteNight / Bridie O’Byrne
Lawrence EvansSilence / George / Reverend Blakeney
Phil McKeeCold / Liamog Hanrahan
Roy McBrideO’Leary / Liam Hanrahan
Charlotte MedcalfMrs Mills / Peggy Hanrahan
Patrick ToomeyDunno / Christie O’Flaherty

Creative Team

RoleName
DirectorDeclan Donnellan
DesignerNick Ormerod
Musical DirectorPaddy Cunneen
Movement DirectorJane Gibson
Lighting DesignerBen Ormerod
Company Stage ManagerLouise Yeomans
Dialect CoachSally Grace
Previous performances

Previous Performances

Date (first performance)LocationNo. of performances
28 November 1989London, Almeida Theatre, UK27
6 November 1989Chichester, Festival Theatre, UK6
30 October 1989Basildon, Towngate Theatre, UK6
24 October 1989Scunthorpe, Civic Theatre, UK5
16 October 1989Winchester, Theatre Royal, UK7
9 October 1989Taunton, Brewhouse Theatre, UK7
3 October 1989Bracknell, Wilde Theatre, UK5
25 September 1989Cambridge, Cambridge Arts Theatre, UK7
18 September 1989Bury St Edmunds, Theatre Royal, UK6
Reviews

Reviews

“A drama which will haunt the memory of those who see it for a long time to come…Donnellan’s play and his own atmospheric staging, has the haunting power of a myth.”

Charles Spencer, The Daily Telegraph

“Narrative links are condensed in song and terse dialogue, so that concentration is fierce of the crucial flash points in the story…Of the highest class.”

Michael Coveney, The Financial Times

“A dark dance of survival presented with the refined wit and audacity of the company’s style.”

Michael Ratcliffe, The Observer

“Declan Donnellan’s first play is a wild, poetic piece of Irish drama as earthy as the peat bog, as sharp as the smell of smouldering sod and as vigorous as a fiercely danced jig… challenging and exhilarating, this is powerful stuff.”

Time Out
Production photo
Photograph: Simon Annand
Production photo
Photograph: Simon Annand

“A wild, poetic piece of Irish drama as earthy as the peat bog, as sharp as the smell of smouldering sod and as vigorous as a fiercely danced jig… challenging and exhilarating, this is powerful stuff”

Time Out

The majestic egalitarianism of the law, which forbids the rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.

Anatole France, Le Lys Rouge, 1894

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